Monday, June 14, 2010

448 days, and counting...

Four hundred and forty-eight days ago
, we sent our oldest son to a wilderness program called Aspen. (You can read about that experience here and here.) From there he went straight to a college prep boarding school an hour away from our home, where he has been living for over a year. And Friday was his graduation. Yes, I said graduation. This is our son, the one who stopped caring about everything, and, in his own words, "was headed for an epic crash-and-burn."

Let me tell you how he did: He graduated with the highest GPA in the senior class. (It’s pretty hard to beat a 4.15 last term!) He was decorated with an honor cord for nearly every department in the school -- English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. He received three college acceptances, including one partial scholarship.

This creative, artistic, musical kid also surprised everyone when he won the Outstanding Science Student of the Year award. (Who knew?) I loved what they said when they presented the award: He not only mastered the material, but livened up the classroom, making it somehow “cool” to understand chemistry, and tutored other students with an energy and enthusiasm that were contagious.

At the graduation ceremony he also accompanied a singer on his acoustic guitar, playing a very cool Natalie Merchant song (remember her?). After that he stood tall, held his head up high, walked with confidence, and smiled as he picked up a very hard-earned thunderous applause. It was an especially large sum in a long string of parent paychecks I’ve been cashing in lately.

I used to take graduating from high school for granted. It seemed like all you had to do was show up and you could make it through. But I have such respect for each of the kids in this school. Every single one of them has a pretty dark story; they all had to fight against tremendous odds; each learned and conquered so much more than academics; each has a family back home who’s made a tremendous sacrifice to send him there.

In a way, it reminded me of my friend Heather, telling us what a spiritual experience it is to attend an AA meeting--all the pretense is gone, and in its place is honesty, humility, and a harrowing battle, won day by day, hour by hour. There was a similar spirit on the lawn at Oakley. As I sat there and watched these teenage heroes collect their diplomas, I thought of this Dar Williams song:

All the things you treasure most
will be the hardest won.
I will watch you struggle long
before the answers come.
But I won't make it harder,
I'll be there to cheer you on.
I'll shine the light that guides you down
The road you're walking on.

You'll fly away, but take my hand until that day.
So when they ask how far love goes
When my job's done you'll be the one who knows.

Before the mountains call to you,
before you leave this home,
Wanna teach your heart to trust
As I will teach my own.
But sometimes I will ask the moon
Where it shined upon you last
And shake my head and laugh and say
It all went by so fast.

You'll fly away, but take my hand until that day.
So when they ask how far love goes
When my job's done you'll be the one who knows.

It is stunning to think that -- other than occasional visits -- our son, who I carried inside my own body for ten full months, and who lived with us since the day he was born, has now lived away from home for four hundred and forty-eight days. (But who’s counting?) Four hundred forty-eight days is a long, long time. I look at Josh and wonder if I've accomplished such great strides in the same number of days in my own life.

Most of all, if I've accomplished anything, I hope he now knows how very far love goes.


LisAway said...

I would be proud and happy for you to hear how amazingly well he has done even if I hadn't been following his story. As it is I feel completely tearful. Even before reading the second half of the post. This is a paycheck that may have been a while in coming (for both you and him), but is sooooo well earned.

InkMom said...

I have missed you, my friend. But it looks like good things were happening in your life, and I am so happy for your family.

Kristina P. said...

Oh, this makes me so happy! I am thrilled for him, and for you.

Heather of the EO said...

Oh lady, I love it. It's been such a long journey while also flying by in a strange way.

I feel a kinship to that boy of yours. Tell him so, mkay?

Congrats, Josh! Keep rockin' it.

Barbaloot said...

Congratulations to you and him both!!! Such a wonderful story to read.

Dedee said...

Wow. I'm so very happy to read this. What a beautiful day. What a day to fill your heart. Loves to you and that handsome boy of yours!

Kimberly said...

Okay, that last line choked me up so much, hun. I just put on mascara! Big mistake. Gah.

I love you so much. You are a beautiful example of how far love goes. Watching you and your family on this journey (from far too far away) has taught me so much about who you are, and who you inspire me to want to be.

I'm so glad for Josh. That this refiner's fire of his has yielded so many blessing for him, and for all of you. Your sacrifices have been legion, and I'm so glad you're already reaping the rewards.

Luisa Perkins said...

How amazing. I have no words. Josh's story strengthens my faith in so many ways, and you? You are my role model.

Kazzy said...

I smiled through this whole post. I love that kid! Yay for you and for your boy/man.

Lara said...

I had to go back and read some o fyour older posts to get the full impact of this one.

What a wonderful accomplishment! Inspiring. And yes, love goes very, very far.

The Hyer Family said...

Congrats to Josh and your family...that is a BEAUTIFUL picture at the end of the whole family. What an inspiration to the rest of us.

Justin said...

Congratulations! What an amazing good thing!

Sandy M. said...

So very happy for all your family Jana! Would you please pass on a stranger's congratulations to your son from us? As 'no man is an island', our land is a little stronger and better today too :) Overcoming what he has to achieve what he now has, is wonderful, and would you please tell him that I feel a real appreciation for the efforts he has made - and Well Done!! I hope he has a great experience at college, and continues to grow into his best and happiest self :)


deb said...

I'm all goosebumps .
Congratulations and then some. Love.
Who knew?

thank you for letting us in on this testimony.

brown eyed girl said...

Way to go, Josh! It is an amazing story, but yours is an amazing family, how can we expect anything less than the best! This story gives hope to us all. Keep up the great work! Love you tons! XO

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

If anyone ever had the right to feel proud . . .

And love stretches so much farther than we give it credit for, doesn't it?

Melanie J said...

I am so, so pleased that all is well. That your heart is healed. That your son is whole.

And you look beautiful in that picture.

Jessica said...

Having followed this journey, it is thrilling for me to read this! I am rejoicing with you, and congratulations to him and to his wise parents who knew how to make the right hard decisions. What a beautiful family!

ME said...

Deliriously happy for Josh's accomplishments and for the tough decisions you made to get him on a better path. The results are written all over your faces in the family picture!

Much love and joy to you all!

Mary Ellen

Heidi Ashworth said...

Sorry so late to the party . . .WOW!!! This is so wonderful and will give so much hope to others, especially those who are as intelligent, artistic, talented and all-around incredibly awesome as you! (The rest don't have as much chance at a happy ending. Sorry to be rude.)

Roban said...

What an inspirational story and congratulations to Josh for his hard work. I can imagine how proud you were to hear what a super young man he had been at school although I'm sure you already knew that.

I haven't forgotten our project! We had fewer days for post-planning this year, and I rushed to get out of there on time (for a change). I have your material with me at home but have either had company (three young boys for a week) or been out of town it seems since school's been out.

I'll e-mail you soon with an update.


Mrs4444 said...

I am SO happy for you ALL! I even got choked up through this. Sounds like a perfect Science teacher, to me. What are his plans now?

Jennifer said...

So happy for Josh and you guys. It was so wonderful seeing you and the fam at the show. Thanks for the support. Love you guys!

charrette said...

He's home now. Just two and a half weeks before he goes away to college. Grand total of his time in treatment: 492 days.

Sandy M. said...

Hi Jana :) Thinking of you and hoping that Life is excellent - and even a little fun - for you right now :)